The Space Tower

First things first. The Space Tower is not really a tower—it's less a proper building than a giant metal erection—and it doesn't take you into space. Not even remotely close to space. Roughly speaking, space starts at around 100 km above the Earth's surface; the Space Tower is 340 feet tall. In fact, the highest point at the Minnesota State Fair is only a little more than half the height of the Space Needle in Seattle, its obvious 1960s inspiration. But here in the flatlands, 340 feet will show you plenty. (For those of a mathematical persuasion: In a smog-free world, the sightline would be about 1.2 times the square root of the height in feet, or roughly 21 miles.) Climb on the metal platform, hand over two or three bucks, and count to 60. That bucketful of Sweet Martha's cookies is safe in your gut on the way up; unlike the various vomitoriums (vomitoria?) on the Midway, the Space Tower has no plans to separate you from your lunch. The ascent is almost a spiritual feeling, a rise above the sweaty thousands and the pervasive scent of horse urine. The fair looks leafy from up here, as the trampled grass falls away beneath you. Before long, you're looking past the fair, first at the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. No other spot reveals both skylines so neatly. How many water towers are there in the metro? How many golf courses? Wait a minute: I think I can see my house from here! And then, just when you're at risk of floating away altogether, the platform pulls you back down to earth and the sweaty, mortal pleasures of the state's greatest carnival.


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